What Causes Varicose Veins?

If a vein in your leg is a prominent dark blue color, if it bulges against the surface of your skin, or if it looks swollen, twisted, or rope-like, it may have become varicose. 

Varicose veins are common, affecting more than one in five adults (23%) in the United States at any given time. Smaller, milder, and less pronounced varicose vein types (reticular veins and spider veins) are even more prevalent, affecting over four in five (up to 85%) American adults. 

Whether you have a varicose vein you want to get rid of or risk factors you’d like to mitigate, vein specialist Johnny L. Serrano, DO, FACOS, and the team of experts at Precision Surgery and Advanced Vein Therapy can help. 

Let’s explore what causes varicose veins to develop — and what you can do about them.  

Varicose veins explained

Your veins are like superhighways that carry deoxygenated blood from your body back to your heart. After this “used” blood enters the right side of your heart, it travels to your lungs to pick up fresh oxygen. From there, it passes into the left side of your heart, which seamlessly pumps it through your arteries and back out to your body. 

Your heart beats an average of 100,000 times a day, and it takes about 45 seconds for your blood to make one trip around your body. Your cardiovascular/circulatory system is made up of many vital elements that work in unison with one shared goal: to keep your blood moving. 

Your veins are a major part of that system. To keep deoxygenated blood flowing in the right direction, they contain a series of one-way valves that open to keep blood flowing toward your heart, and close to stop it from flowing backward. 

A weak or damaged valve can cause blood to back up and pool in one spot, creating a partial blockage that puts pressure on the surrounding vessel wall. Repeated pooling and swelling can stretch, twist, or distort the affected vein, ultimately causing it to become varicose.   

Varicose vein risk factors

Dysfunctional valves are a large part of what causes veins to become varicose, but a variety of outside factors can trigger or accelerate the process. The veins in your legs are more likely to become varicose, for example, because they have to work against gravity to keep blood flowing toward your heart. 

The risk factors for varicose veins are divided into four categories:

Inherited factors

Several inherited factors can increase your chances of developing varicose veins. You’re more likely to get them if you have a family history of varicose veins or chronic venous insufficiency; you’re also more likely to develop them if you’re tall, as being tall puts your leg veins under a greater degree of pressure. 

Perhaps the most significant inherited factor, however, is gender — women are far more likely to develop varicose veins than men, because estrogen (one of the main female sex hormones) tends to relax vein walls.   

Acquired factors

Advanced age and obesity are arguably the biggest risk factors in this category — getting older leaves the valves in your veins more worn and prone to dysfunction, while carrying extra body weight places your veins under a greater amount of pressure.   

Pregnancy is another acquired risk factor for varicose veins. Being pregnant boosts a woman’s chances of developing enlarged, twisted veins through the three-fold increase of blood volume, body weight, and estrogen levels. 

Lifestyle factors

Smoking, being too sedentary, and spending too much time on your feet are the main lifestyle factors that promote the development of varicose veins. 

Given that many people (women in particular) have multiple risk factors, it isn’t surprising that varicose veins are so common.

Varicose vein solutions

Appearance is a major concern for many people with varicose veins, and for good reason — large, dark veins are strikingly obvious, especially if they’re twisted, knotted, or bulging against the surface of your skin. 

Unfortunately, varicose veins aren’t simply a cosmetic concern, especially if they continue to grow and develop. And when varicose veins become painful or irritating, it’s time to consider your treatment options

At Precision Surgery and Advanced Vein Therapy, Dr. Serrano offers a full scope of treatment solutions for varicose veins, ranging from lifestyle modifications and compression therapy to ablative therapies and minimally invasive surgery. The solution that’s best for you depends on the size, severity, and location of your problematic vein.


If you’re ready to say good-bye to bothersome varicose veins, call our Glendale, Arizona, office today, or click online to schedule an appointment with Dr. Serrano any time.

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